Monday, October 11, 1999

Akili's revenge: Bengals 18, Browns 17

First win a reason to roar

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Akili Smith signals TD after Carl Pickens caught his pass with 9 seconds left.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        CLEVELAND — The Cincinnati Bengals played the Cleveland Browns for the first time in three seasons Sunday. It was as if the two teams had never been apart.

        Their rivalry is back, potentially as good as ever, stoked by a couple of rookie quarterbacks too young to remember when it began. “This was like the Super Bowl,” announced Bengals rookie QB Akili Smith after the Bengals' 18-17 victory.

        “It definitely angered me,” said Browns rookie QB Tim Couch, when someone asked his reaction to Smith's postgame celebrating.

        Smith had reason to roar. His touchdown pass to Carl Pickens with 9 seconds to play allowed the Bengals to slip past the Browns, who fell to 0-5 in their first year back as an expansion team.

        The win, before 73,048 in the new Cleveland Browns Stadium, lifted the Bengals to 1-4. More importantly, it gave them a reason to believe better days are ahead.

        The reason was Smith. Making his first NFL start, Smith reacted with the calm and presence of a 10-year veteran. “His huddle presence was big,” tackle Willie Anderson said. “All the hype this week about this being him-versus-Couch didn't faze him.”

        The comparison is unfair to Couch, the first player picked in the NFL draft last April. Smith can throw to Pro Bowl-quality receivers Pick ens and Darnay Scott, and hand off to 1,000-yard running back Corey Dillon.

        On Sunday, Dillon gained 168 yards on 28 carries; Scott caught eight of Smith's passes, for 110 yards; Pickens grabbed the game-winning TD pass.

        Regardless, Smith won Round 1 Sunday. The game-winning drive was a 10-play, 80-yard testament to Akili's cool. With 2:04 left and Cincinnati starting at its 20, Smith told his teammates in the huddle that they would score. “Not, "Let's score,'” said guard Brian DeMarco, “but, "We're going to score.'”


Bengals 18, Browns 17
When Pound barks, Akili shows bite
First win makes it fun again
Smith's family shares big day
Dillon glad to be in it for the long run
'Money player' Pickens pays off
Second-stringers busy in secondary
Browns 0-5 and unhappy
Bengals-Browns summary